Zvezda: shipyard of the future or Soviet-style black hole by Stephen Fortescue

The priority given to the Zvezda shipyard by the state is indicated by Sechin, one of Putin’s heaviest hitters, being directly responsible and by a significant level of state funding. The Zvezda story provides the basis for discussion of broader issues in the ongoing Russian quest for a sustainable model for the building of a modern, value-adding economy which has something to gain from and offer to all parts of the sprawling Russian Federation.

Stephen Fortescue holds a PhD in Soviet Politics from the Australian National University. He is an honorary Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences of the University of New South Wales, Sydney and Visiting Fellow in the Centre for European Studies of the Australian National University. He researches Russian policy-making capacity, Russia's development policy in the Russian Far East and its commercial engagement with the Asia Pacific, and Russian industry policy. The author acknowledges the useful comments of Julian Cooper and Richard Connolly on an earlier draft. © 2018 Changing Character of War Centre. All rights reserved. Material in this publication is copyrighted under UK law. Individual authors reserve all rights to their work and material should not be reproduced without their prior permission. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Changing Character of War Centre, Pembroke College, or the University of Oxford.

After the Cold War: The Impact of Economic and Financial Warfare on Civilians

A former Visiting Research Fellow with CCW has published a blog article with CCW’s Changing Character of Conflict Platform. Chris Holloway worked with CCW during 2018 and has now returned to the Australian Department of Defence.

This blog article compares two examples of indirect coercion, namely, economic and financial warfare, and shows a crucial role of informal authorities, such as banks, and non-physical space in current conflicts.

The Centenary of the Anglo-French Treaty, 1919-2019 by Rob Johnson

The Anglo-French Treaty was signed by Lloyd George and Clemenceau on June 28th, 1919, the same day as the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. The two were regarded as inextricably linked. For France, it represented the fulfilment of an important bond in its security in Europe, and for Britain, it was the logical conclusion to its wartime relationship.

Dr Robert Johnson is the Director of CCW

Review of John Davies and Alexander Kent, Red Atlas by Andrew Monaghan

Dr Andrew Monaghan writes a review of:

Red Atlas. How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent. London: University of Chicago Press, 2017. HB. 234pp. Maps, Photos, Index. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-38957-8

“This fine book examines the significant effort that the Soviet Union invested in mapping the USSR, its Soviet allies and world. This was the world’s ‘largest mapping endeavour’, conducted by thousands of cartographers who produced perhaps more than a million different types of maps of different parts of the planet, to an ‘extraordinarily high quality of craftsmanship’, to present an alternative view of the globe. Indeed, the maps often appear as works of art.”

Dr Andrew Monaghan is Director of Research on Russia and Northern European Defence and Security at CCW

War with NATO: Essence of a Russian Decision by Dr Jeffrey Michaels


Dr Jeffrey H. Michaels

The principal question I will be addressing is:  how should we think about the prospect of Russian military aggression against NATO? It is essential to have a clearer idea of the characteristics of a Russian decision to initiate military aggression against NATO. The approach taken here is unorthodox in that it avoids direct engagement with mainstream political science works dealing with the related subjects of war initiation, deterrence, the role of alliances, the waning of major war, nor does it directly engage with the literature on competing theories of International Relations. Though I will draw on some of this literature, and make a few indirect references to it, the principal aim is to narrow the focus from that of general theory towards understanding how certain issues may present themselves in this specific context.

Dr Jeffrey H. Michaels is a Senior Lecturer at Defence Studies Department, King’s College London. Dr. Michaels was a Visiting Fellow at CCW from September 2016 to July 2017.

Russia's 'Invincible' Weapons: An Update by Julian Cooper

On 1st March 2018, Vladimir Putin devoted much of his annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly to the presentation of a number of new 'invincible' weapons then under development. Soon after, these new systems were given names: 'Kinzhal' for a cruise missile launched from an aircraft flying at high altitude at a supersonic speed, 'Avangard' for a hypersonic boost-glide system, 'Sarmat' a heavy multi-warhead ICBM, 'Burevestnik' for a nuclear powered very long-range cruise missile, 'Poseidon' a nuclear powered autonomous under-water weapon able to carry nuclear munitions, and 'Peresvet' for a ground-based laser weapon system able to destroy or disable low flying drones, aircraft and,  possibly, satellites. Nearly a year later, in 2019’s Address to the Federal Assembly, Putin gave some additional information about the development of these systems and also spoke of two new ones to be developed in response to the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.


The significance of Putin's 2018 presentation and details of these new systems were provided in an earlier publication and will not be repeated here. The purpose of this paper is instead to outline what is now known about the current stage of development of the new weapons and future prospects for their deployment. It also considers a number of other significant new weapons currently under development and some general patterns that are beginning to emerge that could influence whether a new arms race is in prospect and, if so, what form it might take. 

For Julian Cooper, 'Russia's Invincible Weapons: Today, Tomorrow, Sometime, Never?', May 2018, Click Here.

Review of A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean

The so-called Ring of Five spies – Philby, Burgess, Blunt, Maclean and Cairncross, young men at Cambridge recruited in the 1930s by the Russian intelligence service to penetrate the British bureaucracy – have been so much written about that it is with a heavy heart that one picks up yet another book about them.  It is, after all, over 80 years since they were recruited by the NKVD, as the Cold War KGB was then styled, and about 70 since they ceased spying.  For how much longer will they feature almost as contemporary news?  Will they make it past their own centenary?

Probably not, partly because such subjects have a natural half-life and partly because MI5 is gradually releasing its files of the period.  Once their contents are known there will be nothing else to say.  Most of it is known already, of course, although because MI6 does not release its files some writers will continue to speculate that the ‘real’ story is still withheld.  Happily, that does not apply to Roland Philipps whose A Spy Named Orphan, The Enigma of Donald Maclean is a thoroughly researched account which makes sensible use of all available material and largely eschews speculation. 

Russian military expenditure in 2017 and 2018, arms procurement and prospects for 2019 and beyond by Julian Cooper

Russian military expenditure in 2017 and 2018, arms procurement and prospects for 2019 and beyond

 Julian Cooper 

The Ministry of Finance issued provisional data on the implementation of the 2018 federal budget (total spending, open plus classified, by budget chapter and sub-chapter) on 22 January, although a few days earlier it had already made available details of open spending by government departments during the year. Total spending was 16,709 billion roubles but revenues amounted to 19,455 bn. r., giving a substantial surplus of 2,746 bn.r., 2.7 per cent of GDP, although in the amended budget law the target was 2.1 per cent.

Julian Cooper is Emeritus Professor at the Centre for Russian, Eurasian and European Studies, University of Birmingham/Associate Senior Fellow, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Review of Chris Miller, Putinomics. Power and Money in Resurgent Russia by Jonas Driedger

The weakest part of this strong book is its main title. This is not a “Putinomics” book – in that it does not actually follow the widespread fallacy of attributing all of Russia’s policies to the supposed omnipotence and personal whims of its president. Rather, the book argues that Russia’s political elite – a complex wheel of which Putin is the hub and which this book usually refers to as “the Kremlin” – has pursued a single, persistent, continuous, and deliberate economic policy that has consequentially shaped Russia’s economy.

The ‘Kalibrisation of the Russian Navy: Progress and Prospects by Richard Connolly

The Russian navy (Voenno-Morskoi Flot, or VMF) is now nearly a decade into an ambitious rearmament programme. When this programme was drafted in 2010, it was envisaged that between 2011 and 2020 over 50 new surface vessels and 24 submarines would be built. These would be complemented by the delivery of a further 15 modernised late Soviet-era major surface combatants and around 20 modernised submarines. This would, it was hoped, bring the Russian navy into the 21st century. However, this ambitious programme for fleet modernisation has not gone smoothly. Whilst considerable financial resources were allocated to support naval construction, and a large number of hulls were laid down, deficiencies in Russia’s shipbuilding industry, as well as the impact of Western sanctions and the breakdown of defence-industrial relations with Ukraine, caused progress to be much slower than initially hoped. To date, only a small number of new surface vessels displacing over 2,500 tonnes have been delivered to the navy. And an even smaller number of genuinely modernised Soviet-era vessels are currently in service.

The Changing Actor Dynamics in the Philippines’ Moro conflict by Fausto Belo Ximenes

The Changing Actor Dynamics in the Philippines’ Moro conflict

Fausto Belo Ximenes, University of Oxford

A new article has been added to the Changing Character of Conflict Platform blog.  This blog article presents the latest actor dynamics in the Philippines' Moro conflict where two previously contentious separatist groups, namely MILF and MNLF, are now willing to cooperate. This is a momentum that should be carefully and timely seized by the Philippine government to bring some measure of peace to the country's troubled south.

Eat, Pray, Fight: One Man’s Journey in and out of Al-Qaeda - Florence Gaub

Book review of: Aimen Dean: Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda. London: One World Publications, 2018. pp.480. Hb. ISBN: 9781786073280. RRP: £18.99

Dr Florence Gaub

There is more than one aspect of this jihadi account that resembles Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous story of a woman on a spiritual journey around the world, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Just as Gilbert, Dean sets out from his hometown in Bahrain because of a profound spiritual questioning. But where she heads to Italy and India, he heads to Bosnia and the Philippines. Although Gilbert seeks meaning through meditation and Dean through combat, the two books are both ultimately a thorough reflection on values, and how far we are willing to go to live true to them. Both do not just detail the often harsh living reality in remote places, they take the reader on a very intimate journey of the mind (even though they also, at times, read like Lonely Planet travel guides).

Dean’s account is more than the story of a Generation X traveller lost in a post-modern world – it is a gripping description of his trajectory from a young Mujahedeen overlooking Sarajevo to an early joiner of Al-Qaeda and ultimately informer for Britain’s intelligence services that makes this book a worthy and touching read.

Dr Gaub is Deputy Director of the European Institute for Security Studies. Her most recent book is The Cauldron: NATO’s Libya Operation. London: Hurst, 2018.

The People’s Republic of China: What Can the UK and its Allies Learn from Competitors and Rising Powers? by Dr Samantha Hoffman

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) development of military power is guided by the clearly defined strategic objective that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) position in power be protected. The objective is described in the CCP’s rhetoric as ensuring “state security”. To maintain state security requires a constant consolidation and expansion of the CCP’s power. The CCP’s processes for modernising the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are never detached from this political objective. An important lens for understanding how the PRC turns a strategic concept into actual capabilities is the “People’s War” concept, which is a concept describing a form of mass mobilization. This Maoist political-military strategy is applied in the present-day through the Party-state leadership’s construction of a national defence mobilisation (国防动员) mechanism, which relies on military-civil fusion. The United Kingdom cannot replicate China’s approach because the UK is not guided by the CCP’s Leninist ideology. Instead, understanding the Chinese approach can inform better decision-making and development of long-term strategies for managing relations with China.

Dr Hoffman is Visiting Academic Fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies and Non-Resident Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Changing Character of War Centre, or of the University of Oxford. © 2018 Changing Character of War Centre. All Rights Reserved. Material in this publication is copyrighted under UK law. Individual authors reserve all rights to their work and material should not be reproduced without their prior permission. 

Strategic Planning, Situation Centres and the Management of Defence in Russia: An Update by Julian Cooper

After long delay, the Russian Law on Strategic Planning was finally signed into law by President Putin in June 2014. From the outset the final law on strategic planning makes it clear that the activity concerns both socio-economic development and ensuring national security. It is presented as a highly structured activity pertaining to all levels of government from the federal to the municipal.

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A World Shaped by Spying – Literature review by Robert Dover

Dr Robert Dover (University of Leicester) reviews:

  • Christopher Andrew, The Secret World, Allen Lane (London), June 2018, pp.960, ISBN-13: 978-0713993660

  • Mark Urban, The Skripal Files: The Life and Near Death of a Russian Spy, MacMillan (London), October 2018, pp310, ISBN-13: 978-1-5290-0688-9

“The clichés around intelligence being a much-misunderstood activity, of it being the ‘hidden wiring’ are clichés precisely because they contain a large kernel of truth. Both the books under review here aim to illuminate this activity, and to perform a kind of public service.

For Christopher Andrew, his canvas is wide and ambitious – he is aiming to explain and understand the role that intelligence has played throughout our development as an organised species, whilst making some narrower points about how policy makers and politicians continually under-perform because they are incapable of learning lessons from intelligence history. Mark Urban’s canvas is more limited, in the sense that he focuses in on an individual caught up in sweeping moments of contemporary history, and then someone who becomes the focus of what might become a pivot in international affairs.

But they are both interested in the same core questions, that of the role and use of intelligence, the impact that intelligence operations can have on individuals and on politics. We can extract broad lessons from both books, and curiously the length of The Secret World does not help it yield more advanced or more numerous lessons – as one might have expected. I will take each book in turn, because that offers some clarity and simplicity, but also because the two books – whilst offering similar qualities – are very different, as will become clear.”

Simultaneous Deterrence: Some Policy Considerations for the UK by Jeffrey Michaels

A new paper from former Visting Research Fellow Dr Jeffrey Michaels

Deterrence has once again become increasingly fashionable in Whitehall following a long hiatus after the Cold War. Unfortunately, as with many fashionable terms, a clear and consistent conceptual underpinning is lacking, and there is little or no common understanding within Government about what the term means or with respect to what issues it should be applied. One further unfortunate consequence of this terminological faddism is that by over-emphasizing deterrence in the official discourse, many problems not previously discussed in terms of deterrence are then labelled and understood as deterrence problems.

Dr Jeffrey Michaels is a member of Defence Studies Department, Kings College, London.

Article from Andrew Monaghan: Mobilization as Russian Grand Strategy

Dr Andrew Monaghan has written an article for Current Russia Military Affairs: Assessing and Countering Russian Strategy, Operational Planning, and Modernization, Edited by Dr. John R. Deni. This is publication of the Strategic Strategy Institute, US Army War College.

Dr Monaghan’s article is titled From Plans to Strategy: Mobilization as Russian Grand Strategy

The funding of nuclear weapons in the Russian Federation by Julian Cooper

The Russian federal budget is characterised by a high degree of non-transparency in relation to spending on defence and security. This particularly applies to the procurement of armaments and spending on the individual services of the armed forces. The funding of nuclear weapons is no exception. The available evidence is fragmentary and a considerable degree of estimation is required to obtain an overall total for spending on Russia's nuclear triad. For Russian specialists, this is a highly sensitive topic and the author is not aware of any published attempt to undertake this exercise within the country. Given the lack of transparency, the author has had no choice but to resort to the 'Sovietological' methods often necessary in the past to estimate economic data relating to the USSR – though this is a methodological issue, rather than a suggestion or foundation that Russia is “returning” to the USSR. Before looking at the available data, it is necessary to examine the institutional structures for nuclear munitions and their delivery systems and then analyse the treatment of expenditure on these structures and how it is handled in the chapters and subchapters of the federal budget.


Julian Cooper is based at the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Birmingham and an Associate Senior Fellow at SIPRI. This paper was originally commissioned by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as part of a project investigating the funding of nuclear weapons in countries which possess them.